So, you’ve decided to start an online shop. You’ve decided to GO FOR IT!
This is the year you finally get your business online and selling. This your chance to share your beautiful products with more wonderful customers through the magic of the internet. This is the year you GET IT DONE!
You sit down to create that beautiful shop you have in your mind’s eye and…. nada. The screen looks stubbornly empty. You start scanning google for ideas, tips and walkthroughs to understand what buttons do what. You’ve absolutely NO idea what you are doing and just feel like you are randomly clicking things to find out what they do. AND that drop-dead gorgeous theme template you have chosen needs your pictures, your pages, your products, YOU!
This is where the doubts can creep in.
HOW the hell do you get started? Maybe you aren’t cut out for this? HOW does everyone else make this look SO easy? I SAID I wasn’t techie!!!
But before you consign your online shop plans to that lonely dusty shelf for another year, try going in with a PLAN!
You wouldn’t start a trip of a lifetime without packing the necessities (unless you are one of those who can travel with only a toothbrush and a pair of pants – but even that is preparing a tiny bit). You would know where you are going, how you are going to get there, how long you are staying, what the weather will be like and what clothes/toiletries/ best-loved foods /kitchen sink you’ll need for the trip. Go prepared and you’ll have a great trip.
Plan your new online shop as you would plan that trip. Be prepared and you might just enjoy the journey and love the destination!!
Here are 5 Online Shop Planning Essentials you NEED to pack before starting
1. A map
Otherwise you’ll get lost!!
Grab a pen and paper and jot down what pages your shop needs. You’ll at least need a home page, a blog page, a contact page, a main shop page, an about page and terms and conditions (sorry, that boring page is essential!)
Sort your list of pages into menus. How will your visitors navigate your website. I tend to sketch out 3 menus – the main menu, a top menu (going across the top of the screen) and a footer menu (going across the bottom of the page).
2. Organised packing
Sort your products into categories.
Just as you wouldn’t leave all your products in a heap on the floor of your real-life shop or stall, you shouldn’t lump them all together on your website. Make it easy for your visitors to find what they are looking for.
It’s really easy to add new categories later as you work out what people are looking for. You might want to add categories for gift ideas for special occasions for example. So don’t worry about getting all your categories setup before you start, just get started planning it into some order!
3. Take your pictures
So much of your website is going to be visual that starting off with a good pile of images of your products, your shop and you (!) will really help you to build a fantastic looking online shop quickly.
Take some good quality pics of your products, from all angles and with closeups to show texture and colour. Yes, you can use your phone is you’ve got a good one, but make sure that the end result looks good and not a ‘that’ll do’! People need to get a good impression of your product as if they are standing in your shop.
Take some good quality pics of your shop, stall or workshop, inside and out. People love to know that they are buying from a real person and, if you are making your own products, they love to see behind the scenes.
Squish all photos down to a good data size. I use www.tinypng.com to make sure all my images aren’t enormous and slowing down my websites.
4. Decide on your branding
So you aren’t all mismatched and umming and ahhing about which shade of green looks best on each page.
Pick no more than 5 matching colours and 2 fonts for your branding. Write the hex code (looks like this – #ef54r7) for each colour down before you start. Choose one dominant colour to be your ‘action’ colour for buttons and links.
If you haven’t yet thought about branding or need a refresh, have a look at my easy BrandUP! Branding mini-course to help you create consistency across all your marketing, including your website. (It’s a fun one too!)
5. Write your words
Having your words already written makes building MUCH easier as you can visualise what needs to be said on each page and how it will be best laid out.
Try to collect all these together before starting the build:
Product titles and descriptions (even if you are starting with only a few in each category to begin with)
Your home page title and straplines – to welcome people to your website and tell them what you are all about
Your about page – so much easier to write before thinking about laying it out online
A couple of blogs – it’s hard to build a blog page before you have any blog posts on there!
6. Plan the journey
Sketch out (again, good old paper and pen works well) what you will put on your home page.
Some ideas of what you could include:
Your main product categories with a good description
Links to your most popular products
Links to sale products
Links to new products
A special offer
A sign-up box
Decide where you want visitors to go next after the home page and make it REALLY obvious how to get there!!
Making sure you have everything you need BEFORE you jump into creating your lovely new shop will make your website building experience SO much easier and quicker. You don’t have to have ALL your products ready to go on there but enough to make building your shop enjoyable and looking good from the outset. This will stop the blank screen of doom scenario and before you know it, your online shop will look as good (actually better, because it is yours) that those website templates.
And if you need a guide through the techie gubbins of building your online shop, grab a copy of my Build an Online Shop mini-course, on offer at only £27 until April 20th 2020!
A good story has a beginning, a middle and an ending
This is harder than you may think.
My eight year old daughter loves to write. She uses her best pens and makes sure her writing is as small and neat as possible. All illustrated with her wonderful drawings of course.
Last week I bought her an A4 hardback notebook (like Mummy’s) and she has already filled eight pages full. No spaces. She loves it.
So I asked her if she would like to write a story for that 500 words competition for Radio 2. She shook her head emphatically, ‘no, you HAVE to do 500 words, that’s hardly any words at all and I want to write lots and lots’. Looking at her full notebook she had a point. She was enjoying the process of creating SO much she didn’t want it to end. She imagined a book full of her beautiful work to show off how much and how beautifully she can write (perfect for showing off to teacher and definitely worth a merit mark).
For her, the story didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if it didn’t end because she was enjoying the process of writing so much. Which is fantastic when you are eight and exploring your own creativity, but not so good when you are creating something for a specific purpose.
It is SO easy to get lost in the detail. Making something beautiful or perfect can be really addictive but can often scupper our chances of getting things finished, launched and sold.
Websites are the worst (or the best) for this.
There is SO much to think about and plan when you are creating a new brand and building your website. The pressure is really on to create something that will get noticed, sell your products, and be future proof and that is truly scary.
The temptation is to just keep creating, trying to get it absolutely perfect before you launch your business into the wild. What if it is a flop, what if nobody is interested in my lovely new business, what if nobody visits my gorgeous website, what if I don’t sell anything at all? I’ve seen it with so many new online businesses, they get stuck in the exciting stage of developing that new logo, fiddling with colour schemes or shuffling website content around before launching anything. They keep busy with creating pretty stuff even as business targets start to slip and that product never gets launched.
Don’t get stuck in the creative stage (great as it is), make sure every single stage of your business story has a (hopefully happy) ending.
Keep it simple and use my 4 tips to avoiding the creative trap to launch your business.
Before you start launching into creating that website or that new brand, write down the first thing your business needs to achieve. Make it specific, such as building a list of 1000 super customers, launching your first 4 week programme or selling X no of widgets.
Pin it to your wall and keep returning to that one goal – everything else you do now is just to get you there
Forget perfect. It doesn’t exist. You just need your creative efforts to achieve that one goal pinned to your wall.
Once you’ve achieved that first goal, you can start to work towards the next goal. Yes, you may have to start changing your website, tweak your branding, realign your marketing to appeal to a changing customer base, but this is part of a modern online business. Be flexible, embrace change and your business will be able to grow.
Have you got stuck in the fiddling stage of your business? It can be really hard to recognise that you are doing it and scary to get out of, to get out there and launch your new business to the world. GO FOR IT!
Planning a new website can be fraught with decisions that leave most business owners running for the duvet
As business owners we have to be jacks of all trades but for those that know me well by now, I am useless at accounts. I’m ok once I’m gently shown what bit to fill in where and given some clearly written rules of engagement with my accounting software, but up until that point I haven’t got a clue.
Now, you may be an accounting whiz or just naturally know what needs to be done when a customer pays you, but in my non-accounting brain a nice gift of money in my Paypal account spurs a series of confusing accounting tasks that I have ABSOLUTELY no understanding of – the why and the how alludes me to this day. Luckily (you will be relieved to know) I have a lovely accountant to sort it all out for me and make sure all my columns, invoices, accounting do dahs add up … or whatever it is they are supposed to do.
When I started up my business, and knowing that I should try to get all my accounting sorted out for me, I ran straight to the experts and got help, listened to their recommendations and let them get on with it. They knew what I (and my business) needed, what software was right for me and how it could support everything I planned to do in the future. They asked me questions about my customers and future plans that I hadn’t even considered and certainly had no idea would effect the way I set up my accounting. And I’ve really noticed the difference – my business has grown and expanded into new markets and everything still runs like clockwork in the background. Perfect!
In the same way as setting up my accounts made me want to hide under the duvet not even knowing where to start, planning a new website can be an impossibly daunting task if you haven’t done it before.
You’re desperate to get your business online but don’t know where to start, how to hire a website designer or how to build one yourself?
You’ve no idea which of these options would be best for you anyway.
You’ve no idea where to start with planning that new website or even what it needs to achieve.
AND it all seems to involve investment.
ARGH! It can seem like a mountain to climb!
Many business owners decide they need a website, are determined to build it themselves, choose WordPress to build it on because they have heard great things about it and then have just been daunted by the amount of choice out there – themes, widgets, plugins, bells and whistles!! WOAH THERE! So to help you figure out exactly what you need from a website before you get hopelessly confused by the HUGE amount of choice, I have put together a really simple step by step guide to planning a new website to make sure you have the essentials in place before you even think about hiring somebody to build it, or start thinking about creating it yourself.
Your easy guide to knowing what you want AND need when planning a new website
1. Who is your website for?
I know, you’ve heard it all before. You need to focus on your ideal / super dooper customer who you LOVE to work with. But really, this is the stage of planning a new website that underpins EVERYTHING it will do for your business. After all, your business is nothing without those customers.
A well planned website will convert visitors and get them to take action. The more you can focus your website in converting those people, the harder your website will work for your business. And the trick of converting as much traffic as possible is to make sure that your website appeals to and talks to your ideal customer. You need them to feel as if your website is made for them. You need them to fall in love with your business simply by exploring your website. You need them to make that connection with you and your business without you physically being there to shake their hand and explain what you are all about.
Try these 4 quick tricks to get started and return to them throughout your planning:
Pinpoint the person you love to work with, who never quibbles on price and who loves what you do. If you already work with somebody like this GREAT! If you don’t then pick somebody you dream of being able to work with. This is the person you will be writing to, appealing to and helping when you write your content and design the look of your site.
Describe your ideal customer. What do they love to do, where do they hang out, what do they love to hate? Social media profile pages can be wonderful places for inspiration. Find a few good matches with your chosen ideal customer (or actually your ideal customer if you are already working with them) and explore what they are saying, what groups they are in, what they share and what inspires them.
Visit your competitors’ websites – who are they trying to speak to? Is it the same sort of person or can you differentiate your business by talking to a slightly different customer base?
Visit the websites that your ideal customer shops from. You’ll start to see similarities in colours, patterns, spacing, fonts, images they use. Steal these ideas (not the pictures), they work!
2. Jot down everything your website needs to do
What will visitors to your website be looking for?
Information about your business
A solution to a problem
A particular product
New ideas and inspiration
Advice from an expert
An answer to a specific question
What problems will your website seek to solve for your visitors?
Think about your ideal customer, the person who loves your products and is a pleasure to work with.
What can you help them with and how can you help them get the answers they need through your website?
What is THE SINGLE MOST important role of your website?
Selling a product / service
Getting them to sign up to a membership club
Getting visitors to sign up to your list so you can sell to them later
Building your brand identity
Giving your visitors information
How will your website make your business money?
Selling physical products
Selling downloadable products
Selling your services
Sharing discount vouchers to encourage real world purchases
What is your main marketing message?
It is SO important that your website introduces what you do straight away, up front and not hidden amongst reams of text. Keep it short and sweet, no jargon and straight to the point.
What is the most important thing visitors should learn about your business? Try thinking:
What results can your website’s main focus get your ideal customer?
How will that make them feel?
What problem does it solve for them?
What questions does it answer?
How do you plan to attract people to your website?
I’m afraid that getting good (and the right) traffic to your website involves a lot more than publishing it and waiting for people to find it. But the good news is that there are lots of free and easy ways to get new people to ‘discover’ you online. Plan these tactics into your website early on and you won’t be sat waiting for somebody, anybody to arrive once you’re ready to launch.
Consider a really helpful and regularly published blog. Create a very social site that encourages comments and share posts within social media to get people interested and visiting your site.
Talk to other business owners who are aiming at your ideal customer. Could you share information and link to their website?
Share your marvellous blogs to other websites, such as The Huffington Post
Have a good root around google to find out what people are asking and answer those questions on your website.
3. How will all this work together?!
Make a map
Draw a little map of your website showing where all your pages are going to go. I use powerpoint most of the time as it is easy to draw boxes, but a biro and paper does just as well.
How will your visitors find their way through your website?
If they were to land on your home page, how will they get to the page where they can sign up for that membership club or buy that product
If they land on one of your helpful blogs, how will they get to the page where they can sign up for that membership club or buy that product
Make sure your products are easy to find and easy to buy once they get there
The truth is that a well-designed site is not necessarily the site with all the bells and whistles, but the site that is the most user friendly.
What action will be taken?
Now, for each page, make a note of what call to action needs to be included. This might be a read more button, a sign up form, a guide to which section of your website would suit your visitor most or a buy now button. Make sure every page asks them to do something.
4. Get an idea of the look you want
Sketch out your home page
Just on an envelope, with a crayon, stick men and plenty of scribbles if you must, but this will really help you to visualise what you are looking for before you spend hours of your precious time cruising through reams and reams of website designs. Where are your calls to action going to be and where is all that precious information going to go? Don’t go into too much detail, you needn’t write it all out now. Get a good idea what information, what amount of information and what the purpose of the homepage is and you will start to understand what sort of design will suit your new website best.
And now it’s over to you. It may be that you decide to get a website professional to help you out on your journey, but by going through this little guide you will have a MUCH better idea of what your business needs and a MUCH better idea of what you are buying. Start off with the basics and you won’t go wrong. Love Kat x
PS: Have fun planning your new website, there is no right or wrong at this stage. Don’t limit your imagination. Create something that works for you, your business and your ideal customer. Then, and only should you think about building it 🙂 Have fun!
I get a lot of people contacting me with ‘HELP! My website has disappeared!’, ‘my website is down’, ‘I can’t get this plugin to work’, ‘I’m getting a big error and I don’t know why’ or even ‘I’ve lost my website’.
The dreaded 500 page error has often just flashed up on their screen or the brand new, it’s going to be wonderful plugin isn’t playing ball, and they go into panic mode. What did I do? Agh, I’ve broken my website! Why is my website down? Followed by a big dose of ‘I’m useless at this and don’t understand technology!’
The thing is that most of these problems have happened to all of us, yes, even web designers. In fact I’ll swear that a big 50% of my job building websites is fiddling around added to a huge lump of trial and error. Which is why, when you buy hosting, or a wordpress theme, or a plugin what you are actually paying for is the creator’s expertise.
Your host is there to serve you
Every hosting package will come with support. There are some things that are beyond your control and the dreaded error pages are often generated because the server is down, or you need more room or your website is going bonkers because a small setting needs to be tweaked. It happens to the best of us. So when I recommend hosting for my clients or my gorgeous course ladies I always recommend hosting with great support. (I use Siteground, in case you need a recommendation)
Often your hosting company will have a live chat function. I find this invaluable as I always get through within a couple of minutes and I can get on with other things whilst waiting for them to explore and fix the problem. AND you don’t have to listen to that awful musac while you are in the queue.
Buying a wordpress theme? You are buying the creator’s expertise and support.
The best wordpress themes come with fantastic support. Each and every theme is different and each and every theme is set up in a completely different way. The wordpress dashboard can be transformed when you upload a new theme and this can often put newbies off and leave them running for the duvet.
BUT luckily when you bought the theme, you didn’t just buy the technology, you bought support. In fact, you will have specifically bought support and updates for a year. When you are asked to renew you will be renewing this support (so your theme doesn’t just stop working after a year!). So read the supporting documentation and expect the controls to be a little different to what you are used to. Watch the support videos, they will often take you through step by step and will save you a headache later. And if you get stuck, login to their support website (this may be in the online shop where you bought the theme) and search their comments for your problem. Still no joy? Try live chat if they have one or raise a ticket to get your problem solved quickly. The number of times I’ve struggled on trying to solve an awkward issue myself when I should have tried for 10 minutes and then asked the experts I just can’t count!
Downloaded a new plugin? The best plugins come with the best support
The wordpress world is a strange place. As wordpress is essentially free and open for developers or non-developers to play with there is a HUGE range of themes, plugins and widgets to add on. Of course, these range in quality and I always read the reviews of plugins before I install.
Some plugins cost a little but come with great support. But even some of the free ones are well supported. When you download or search for a new plugin for your website, make sure you check when it was last updated and whether it is compatible with the latest version of wordpress. Recent updates will mean the developer is still actively supporting their plugin. Yay!
Then, if you get stuck integrating the plugin with your website – ASK! Read the accompanying documentation (often found in the original download or at wordpress.org) Go back to the website that sold the plugin and raise a ticket for help, login to wordpress.org, search for the plugin and click support. You may even find other users asking the very question you needed to ask.
5 golden rules of wordpress support
Don’t be shy – if you get stuck, other people will have been stuck before
You’ve paid for support so use it!
There is no such thing as a silly question. Everybody was a newbie once.
If you don’t understand their answer, tell them, they are there to help you.
Still not working? Have a break, get some sleep and some problems will magically solve themselves overnight.
If you have spent ages trying to solve a problem, contacted the support, had a break and asked your nominated professional and it still isn’t working don’t throw your computer out of the window, try another host / theme / plugin. There are SO many options that you don’t have to struggle to fit a square box into that round hole.
Find out how to resuscitate your old website and get it working for your business again.
Even if your website was lovingly designed in the beginning and you spent lots of time and money getting it going it is really easy for it to go off the rails and start misbehaving. Technology changes and your business changes and your even your audience might change and it can all make for a wonderful website mess.
The problem is that changes are often unplanned and reactionary. Argh! I need that super whizzy plugin that connects me to that brand new social media platform. Argh! I’ve just created a new programme, a new range of products and completely changed my focus. AND it HAS to all be at the top of my website on the front page in BIG!!!
Before you know it, you’ve tweaked, added, diy-designed and moved around most of the elements of your website and ended up with a bit of a mess.
The well-planned, SEO friendly, brilliantly laid out website you started out with can easily descend into a confusing muddle, which will effect everything from your brand image to your search engine rankings and sales. Eek!
There is life left in the old website yet. It is possible to breathe a new lease of life into it and get it working for you and looking lovely. Don’t believe me?
Here are 5 magical fixes you can use TODAY to transform that old warty frog of a website back into your online prince, without spending loads of money on an entire redesign:
Clean up the mess
A great website knows what its main purpose is.
This may well have changed since you first started out online so taking a step back and re-examining what you want your website to do for your business is the most important thing you can do.
Ask yourself these questions…
What is the MAIN focus of your website? Do you want visitors to sign up to your list, buy your latest programme, browse your online shop, buy a particular product, join your social media conversations, be THE place to find what they need, become your number one fan or learn from your brilliant blog?
You may have a few of goals here but pick the ONE thing your website should DEFINITELY get your visitors to do when they land on your website. THAT is your MAIN focus – everything else is part of the journey.
Once you have your main focus you can then trim back everything that doesn’t contribute in some way to that focus. Be brave, it’s like ripping off a plaster but once it’s done it’s all better.
Get rid of the clutter (not everything should be on the front page). Give your main focus the stage and let it shine.
Grab a pen and a notebook and scribble down your new website plan and try to think how your customers will navigate around your website. Adding new pages or directions in the sidebar can make it far easier to find their way around.
Find out what’s really wrong with your website.
You may hate how it looks now, but some bits might really be working for you (and your customers). The best way to find out what is working and what isn’t is to get yourself on Google Analytics and do some digging. You’ll be able to see what pages are most popular, where people are landing when they visit your website (this can be surprising and isn’t always your front page) and where they go after they’ve landed on the site.
Ooh – it’s a bit stalkery but good stuff. Just go to http://www.google.com/analytics/ and create yourself an account.
Dress it up
A new header can work wonders for a website as they make such an impact on your brand image. They take up some of the most important space on your website, so can really colour the way you feel about your site.
Find a brand new image for your header or change up your marketing message.
Leap onto Canva and have a play with your new look.
Not feeling arty? Then this could be a good thing to invest in and save you LOADS from having to get the entire site redone.
Create your look
Style guidelines aren’t just for the big girls. Have a look at the fonts and colours you are using throughout your website. Is it a bit of a mishmash? Are your ads using a different font to your header and your text using 3 different colours in one article?
Mixing it up can really mix up your audience.
Choose and DECIDE on no more than 2 fonts to use throughout your website (including in the graphics) and choose and DECIDE what your main colours will be.
Most websites these days are built with something called CSS, which means that a simple tweak to the code and you’ll be able make your whole website theme blue, or pink, or yellow or change all your fonts with one click. If you have access to editing your own website (using a content management system like WordPress or Squarespace) you can probably do this yourself. If your website is custom built then it won’t be an expensive change.
There is nothing worse than a website that looks like it’s shouting at you. If you’ve been trying to make new additions to your website stand out with bigger and bigger text then you may be shouting so loud that nobody can work out what you are really saying.
Go through your text on each page and work out what the MOST important parts of it are. You will already have your headings set up behind the scenes and you should use them as they can really help your rankings on search engines too.
Play around with your headings settings – maybe an interesting font will make them stand out, maybe just a larger size or style (bold, italics etc).
But once you’ve chosen your settings, stick with them and make your Header 1 top dog on every page.